Editorial: Am J Health Syst Pha
Thomas J, Martinez A.
PURPOSE: Anemia of critical illness is common among intensive care unit patients. A blood management pilot program was initiated to study the pharmacodynamic response of epoetin alfa in critically ill patients and assess the impact of the use of a standardized order set of pharmaceuticals, including epoetin alfa and intravenous iron sucrose, on the quantity of red blood cell units transfused in the adult intensive care unit. SUMMARY: A pre-printed order set was developed which included baseline and follow-up laboratory monitoring and pharmaceutical options for iron, either intravenous and/or oral, folic acid, ascorbic acid, cyancobalamin, and weight-based epoietin alfa. Laboratory studies included: hemoglobin/hematocrit, reticulocyte count, absolute reticulocyte count, immature reticulocyte fraction obtained at baseline, and on day three and day five; in addition, iron, total iron binding capacity, transferrin saturation, and ferritin were obtained at baseline and on day five. An average hemoglobin response of 0.8 g/dL five days after administration of epoetin alfa was demonstrated in a diverse population of critically ill patients. Patients who received intravenous iron did not have a difference in mortality as compared to those patients who did not receive intravenous iron; however, there was a significantly longer length of stay. The cost of epoetin alfa was $64,000 over 10 months (approximately 8-10 patients/month). Transfusions of RBCs in adult intensive care unit decreased over the initial five months of the pilot study. CONCLUSION: Use of erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs) in the critically ill is controversial. Implementing a standardized approach in the pharmaceutical management of anemia in the critically ill patient is possible. Limitations with the order set and standardized protocol included errors in selection of dose/weight, incomplete laboratory/monitoring, and inconsistent prospective/concurrent review to guide therapy. The determination of the cost-effectiveness of epoetin alfa therapy in anemia of critical illness was not the purpose of this project, but will be the focus of future studies